Post Modern Thought

Mimesis and Self-consciousness
at the Cosmic Baseball Association.

by Benjamin Stein
Senior Fellow at the Cosmic Baseball Research Alliance

THE COSMIC BASEBALL ASSOCIATION, focuses on the interchange between the different components and strata of fictional creations. Authorial control, referentiality, the relationship between author and reader, and other elements are subject to examination and undergo certain transformations that easily can be associated with the distinctive attitude of formal exploration of contemporary fiction. The Cosmic Baseball Association deals with what we may call the "private sphere"--that area apart from the fundamental structures of collective consciousness. The Cosmic Baseball Association--hereafter cited as The CBA--explores the status of fiction by examining the fundamental categories involved in its generation and development as reflected in the game of baseball.

Although The CBA engages the intrinsic problems of mimetic representation in terms of the conflict between self-consciousness and referentiality it focuses on this conflict in the private sphere. The CBA is a mimetic construction based on the actual sport. In a rather elaborate way, it reproduces the features of the game with detailed precision, and thereby represents a number of the names, terms, rules, and conventions that define the sport. Although The CBA's game is very different from actual baseball- -obviously, it cannot be otherwise--The CBA basically reproduces the actual sport. A large set of characters and elements- -not only a variety of baseball players--takes part in the imaginary game, making The CBA appear as a complex dialogic construction. Thus, the initial conception of The CBA is as a mimetic (private and fantastic) recreation of the world of baseball.

In The CBA, numbers play the same role as words play in a literary text. In addition to its undeniable mimetic import, the game is also a self-contained structure ruled by its own internal laws. It combines the accuracy of numbers and record-keeping, on the one hand, with the erratic and unforeseeable irregularity of life, on the other. Such a feature is not to be found in the actual playing of baseball, where the outcome of a match depends almost entirely on the players' abilities. This is why The CBA self-consciously withdraws itself from reality to become a self-enclosed structure. By reducing action to numbers, the game establishes its own representational process. Numbers and records, which in the actual game are mere indicators of the progress of the games and the overall league, become not only the medium but also the purpose of The CBA's design.

The CBA with its own made-up players, rules, numbers, and combinatory potentials--is much more exciting than actual baseball-playing. Real baseball hinges on the supremacy of a set of rules given beforehand, whereas The CBA rests on both authorial control and the unpredictability of chance. In The CBA world, one can perceive the interchange between the rigidity of the rules and the capricious fluctuation of numbers and also experience the effect of one on the other. The records, the statistics, the peculiar balances between individual and team, offense and defense, strategy and luck, accident and pattern, power and intelligence define the landscape of this endeavor.. And no other activity in the world has so precise and comprehensive a history, so specific an ethic, and at the same time, strange as it seems, so much ultimate mystery.

One of The CBA's attractions is its capability to fuse antithetical terms and form a sort of "continuum" of experience whereby the logical opposition between theoretical evaluation (strategy, pattern, intelligence) and practical results (ultimately provided by luck and accident) vanishes. What is valued in this construction is, then, the original synthesis of binary oppositions that integrates the individual and the team into this unique work of art. The essence of The CBA's design is, to put it another way, the fusion between the folk, mythical and religious, on the one hand, and the scientific, mathematical sides of the game, on the other- all of which is, paradoxically, provided by the erratic intersection of life and art.

The CBA comprises all the virtues of mimetic art: the creativity, which combines reference to reality (to actual baseball) and personal artistic variations, the search for pattern and, most important, the recognition of the eventual openness of one's own interpretive system.

This essay was extracted from a longer essay entitled "Mimesis and self-consciousness in Robert Coover's Universal Baseball Association." The original essay was written in 1996 by Ricardo Miguel-Alfonso and published in Critique, Vol. 37, pp 92. We are grateful to the author and publisher who are unaware of my use of the work for my own purposes. --B. Stein.

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JCBA 17- Post Modern Thought
Published: October 9, 1998
Copyright © 1998 by the Cosmic Baseball Association